Medicine accomplished a huge feat at the start of 2020, when researchers produced the first mRNA vaccine to protect humans from SARS-CoV-2 infection. It was certainly not new technology—the vaccine platform had been under development for more than a decade and tested against multiple diseases, from flu to rabies. It represents our rapidly advancing understanding of how the body manufactures proteins, the molecules that are coded for by our genes. The potential to manipulate the very blueprints that our cells use to build the molecules and cells at the heart of disease is undoubtedly a game changer. Beyond vaccines, researchers have been devising treatments for cancer, lymphoma, AIDS, cystic fibrosis, and more, aided by new gene-editing technology, as physician Carolyn Barber (see “How Designer DNA Is Changing Medicine”) profiles in this collection. The next generation of lifesaving treatments may be manufactured right in our own bodies.
Such genetic advancements are being hyped as a way for prospective parents to screen their embryos for future diseases—but the technology might not be ready for primetime, as genetic counselor Laura Hercher writes (see “A New Era of Designer Babies May Be Based on Overhyped Science”). And as always we have updates on the latest COVID news—from breakthrough infections (see “ ‘Breakthrough’ Infections Do Not Mean COVID Vaccines Are Failing) to a surprising COVID risk (see “People with COVID Often Infect Their Pets”). Here’s to your health, now and in the future!